By Dr. Mercola
Bell’s palsy has various risk factors, such as autoimmune conditions, diabetes and pregnancy. The last one, in particular, increases your risk of developing it. It’s estimated that pregnant women are 3.3 times more susceptible to developing Bell’s palsy compared to women who are not pregnant.1
Why Are Pregnant Women More Susceptible to Bell's Palsy, and How Can You Predict It?
Bell’s palsy can strike pregnant women during the third trimester, or 26 to 40 weeks into the pregnancy.2,3,4 It’s not known why this occurs, or why Bell’s palsy seems to affect pregnant women in the first place.
It’s theorized that edema, which is the increase of bodily fluids during pregnancy, causes the facial nerve to swell. This affects the interaction of the signals between the facial muscles and the brain.5 Immune system suppression during the final months of pregnancy is also believed to be a probable cause of the facial nerve swelling.6 Aside from these theories, the symptoms of Bell’s palsy practically remain the same. You may develop:7
• Facial paralysis: The onset of facial paralysis on one or both sides may be immediately felt, often within hours or days.
• Pain: The paralyzed area may become painful, usually around the jaw area or behind the ear. Headaches may develop as well.
• Sensory problems: A portion of the tongue may have problems functioning, and you may become more sensitive to sounds.
• Oral problems: Drooling can occur, as well as a change in saliva production.
If You're Pregnant and Notice the Symptoms of Bell's Palsy, Visit a Doctor Right Away
Conventional treatment of Bell’s palsy includes steroidal medication. However, this method is not recommended, especially to pregnant women, since it can affect your unborn child. The best way to deal with your predicament is to adopt treatments that help manage your symptoms naturally and safely.
Physical therapy is usually the best course of action, as it is safe and does not require medication, and can also be continued months after giving birth. One support group member from the Facial Paralysis & Bell’s Palsy Foundation noted that her condition improved after seeking out a physical therapist specializing in facial paralysis. Joining a support group also helps, emotionally.8
Recovery time usually differs, depending on the level of inflammation to the facial nerve, but it’s estimated that it usually takes six months for pregnant women to recover from Bell’s palsy. Prognosis of Bell’s palsy in pregnant women is often good as well, and there’s no evidence that the fetus is affected by the condition.9
After childbirth, dealing with Bell’s palsy can be stressful, because instead of enjoying your time with your child, you may be distracted due to the facial paralysis you’re experiencing. It’s important to know that Bell’s palsy will get better over time, and that you should prioritize raising your child first and foremost.